Better With Popcorn

Meszaros displays glimpse of upside in 500th Game

Andrej Meszaros is more than comfortable playing in Ottawa’s ScotiaBank Place.

Drafted by the Senators with the 23rd overall selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, he called the arena home for three seasons.

On Sunday night he returned to the arena, this time as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, to play in the 500th game of his professional career.

During his time with the Senators, he found a great deal of success.

He scored 35 points or more in each of his three seasons, finished with a total of 110 points (26 goals, 84 assists) and turned his superb play into a lucrative contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning when he hit the market as a free agent (six-years, $24 million).

For Meszaros, Sunday night was just like old times.

After Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson scored in the first minute of the game, it was Meszaros who quickly brought the team back into the affair.

Meszaros has now registered a point in his last three games and has continued to make himself more visible when the Flyers are transitioning to the offensive zone. He is beginning to move the puck well through the neutral zone, carry the puck with confidence and is present on the rush.

After a slow start to the season, the 26-year old defensemen is starting to find a stride in the offensive component of his game.

In the first two months of the season, Meszaros had only registered a total of six points (two goals, four assists). Since the start of December he has scored nine points (four goals, five assists), with all four of his goals coming in his last 11 games.

Meszaros increased production couldn’t have come at a better time.

At the end of November, it was announced that Flyers captain Chris Pronger was expected to miss the month of December with a knee injury. Of course, as we all know now, that diagnosis was inaccurate; Pronger will in fact be missing the entire year.

At the time, however, the team was still anticipating that the fallen captain was going to come back at the end of the month.

Meszaros was aware that he was going to have to step up to fill in for Pronger.

“I’m trying to work on my shot [after] every practice. You know, do little things,” he told The Checking Line back in late November. “Doing everything the coach asks me to do. Just trying to do everything right out there.”

To this point, Meszaros hard work has been paying off.

With that being said, his role on the team is as a defensemen and he is still struggling in the defensive phase of the game.

Although he has had strong games, his play in his own zone is still far too inconsistent. Blown coverages and poor mental decisions have plagued Meszaros all season.

At around the seven-minute mark of the second period in Sunday’s game against the Senators, Meszaros stumbled over himself at the top of the defensive zone and allowed an Ottawa player to enter the Flyers zone completely untouched.

Plays like this have dogged Meszaros all year.

His increased offensive production is a great sign. The best part about it is that he seems to have re-gained his confidence when moving the puck, which is crucial for the Flyers when establishing their fore-check.

If Meszaros can find a way to solidify his defensive efforts, the team will be far better off because of it.


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